The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) trading bloc is pushing for value addition in order to boost intra-regional trade, officials said on Friday.
Kipyego Cheluget, the Assistant Secretary General of COMESA, told a media briefing in Nairobi that the share of intra-COMESA exports as compared to COMESA global exports remains low at 9.1 percent.
“We are therefore encouraging industrialization so that locally available raw materials can be processed to finished goods as a way to boost intra-COMESA,” Cheluget said during the 34th COMESA Trade and Customs Committee meeting.
Cheluget noted that the 21-member bloc is endowed with natural resources such as gold, copper, oil, coffee and tea which are mostly exported in raw form to developed countries for further processing and hence the region loses revenues and job creation opportunities.
Cheluget added that most of the member states are still stuck in the colonial ways of trading and prefer to trade with European countries over their neighbors.
The regional bloc is in the process of implementing the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area that will provide traders with the necessary digital tools and infrastructure they need to enhance intra regional trade and global trade.
Other recommendations for the economic bloc’s partner states include the promotion of e-commerce to provide an online platform for COMESA regional traders to trade online.
He urged the region to leverage on technology in order to overcome non tarrif barriers (NTBs)
Chileshe Kapwepwe, the Secretary General of COMESA, said member states have agreed to cooperate in customs procedures and activities through simplifying and harmonizing their trade documents and procedures as well as abolishing all NTBs in order to boost trade among themselves.
Kapwepwe said member states under the Common Market Customs Management Regulations (CMR) have also agreed to use Information Technology in support of their customs procedures with a view to attaining more effective customs controls and effective customs clearance through uniform application of import regulations.
She noted that so far 204 NTBs have been reported among the member states since the establishment of the Tripartite NTB online Reporting Mechanism out of which 199 have been resolved.
“However, a disturbing phenomenon is that reports of NTBs keep being reported and this frustrates the efforts to enhance intra-COMESA trade,” she added.
She said Intra-COMESA exports have increased from 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to 7.9 billion dollars in 2017.
The COMESA senior official said that with regard to trade facilitation, 10 member states have implemented the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) for expedited clearance of trusted clients while the National Single Window is operational in 10 member states.
According to the trading bloc, 11 of the COMESA Member States have finalized the schedules of specific commitments in the four priority services areas of transport, communication, financial and tourism services.
“The region is now ready to progress with the work on the three additional priority sectors of energy, business and construction and related engineering services,” she said.
Kapwepwe said the services sector constitute an average of over 50 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the COMESA region and hence an important area of focus.
Chris Kiptoo, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, said that in as much as COMESA has developed excellent instruments and polices all aimed at improving integration, the region still faces challenges.
Kiptoo said the implementation of regional commitments and full-scale participation of all member states in COMESA programs is an area that still requires improvement.
He noted that integration is a collective effort and success can only be attained when the majority are fully engaged in the various activities currently in place.